The Rodeo Cowboy
Professional rodeo is a sport, perhaps the fastest growing sport in the nation, but to the cowboys and cowgirls who compete, it is a lifestyle. The cowboy doesn't compete at rodeo as much as he lives it.
Of course, cowboys still drive pickups, work on ranches and wear jeans and boots. But cowboys today are businessmen and athletes, as likely to have refined their skills at rodeo schools as on ranches.
They pursue glory in the dust and rain of rodeo arenas across North America. But unlike other professional athletes, the rodeo cowboy pays for the privilege to compete. Every rodeo requires an entry fee and promises nothing in return. The cowboy doesn't get paid unless he produces. One missed throw, one lost grip and the cowboy doesn't even recoup his entry fee.
The life is demanding, but then the life of a cowboy always has been. Rodeo is the only sport in America that evolved from the skills required in a work situation. And today, the sport retains the fierce independence of the ranch hands of the 1900s who turned work into sport.
Professional rodeo action consists of two types of events: roughstock events and timed events.
In the roughstock events - bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding - a contestant's score is equally dependent upon his performance and the animal's performance.
In order to earn a qualified score, the cowboy, while using only one hand, must stay aboard a bucking horse or bull for eight seconds. If the rider touches the animal with his free hand, he is disqualified. In saddle bronc and bareback riding, cowboys must "mark out" their horses; that is, they must exit the chute with their spurs set above the horse's shoulders and hold them there until the horse's front feet hit the ground after its first jump. Failing to do so results in disqualification.
In the timed events - tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, steer roping and barrel racing - a contestant's goal is to post the fastest time in their event.
In the roping events, calves and steers are allowed a head start. The competitor, on horseback, starts in a three-sided fenced area called a box.
The fourth side opens into the arena. A rope barrier is stretched across that opening and tied to the calf or steer. Once the calf or steer reaches the head start point- predetermined by the size of the arena - the barrier is automatically released. If a cowboy breaks that barrier before it is release, he is assessed a 10-second penalty.
Behind the Scenes
The cowboys and the animals are the stars, the obvious centers of attention
But the stars of rodeo would never shine if it were not for the work of a large supporting cast, a cast that includes announcers, stock contractors, rodeo secretaries, timers, pickup men, chute laborers, specialty-act personnel and rodeo producers.
The announcers inform and entertain the audience, provide contestant background and scores and generally lend atmosphere to the event.
Stock contractors supply the animals. The producer is responsible for every aspect of the event, from hiring laborers to promoting the rodeo to producing opening ceremonies. Timers keep the official time of the timed events and sound the buzzer after eight seconds in the roughstock events. The rodeo secretary records the times, figures the payoff and pays the winning cowboys and cowgirls.
Specialty acts entertain the audience with vaudeville routines, animal acts and trick riding. Pickup men assist the saddle bronc and bareback riders to dismount after their rides, and to help free cowboys who get hung up in their rigging.
Chute laborers aid the cowboys in mounting and adjusting their equipment, and open the chute gate when the cowboy indicates he is ready to ride.
Our Heavenly Father, we pause, ever mindful of the many blessings you have bestowed upon us.
We ask that you be with us at this rodeo, and we pray that you will guide us in the arena of life.
We don't ask for special favors, we don't ask to draw around a chute fighting horse, or to never break a barrier.
Nor do we ask for all daylight runs, or not to draw a steer that won't lay.
Help us O Lord, to live our lives in such a manner that when we make that last inevitable ride to the country up there,
where the grass grows lush, green, and stirrup high, and water runs clear, cool and deep, that you as our last judge,
will tell us that our entry fees are paid.